Important Considerations For International Parcel Delivery

August 2018


For many businesses, the greatest sign of growth is getting to a point where you can expand to offer your products and services overseas. From an SME taking its first steps to selling products in the EU, to large companies expanding to the Middle East, when it comes to sending parcels internationally, the same important aspects need to be addressed. Whether you get started with Whsitl for taking care of all your international parcel delivery needs, or arrange everything yourself, these are the most important things to consider.

Paying VAT and Duties

Sending goods or products from the UK to any EU country is relatively straightforward, at the moment. They are currently not subject to VAT, taxes or duties and you don’t need to complete a customs declaration. You can apply the zero rate of VAT to sales when you have the customer’s valid EU VAT registration number. There are other countries where similar conditions apply, such as with Turkey as it is in a customs union with the UK. However, after Brexit and depending on the outcome of negotiations, it could change after March 2019 onwards.

Exporting goods outside the EU can incur a range of tariffs, taxes and VAT. These usually depend on the country where the products are being sent and what type of goods classification they fall under. It’s best to check with the destination country what these are and whether the importer or exporter is obliged to pay them.    

Essential Exporting Forms

If you arrange to send parcels abroad yourself, it’s essential you meet all export declaration requirements. Exporting outside of the EU involves submitting an electronic export declaration online, via HMRC’s Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system. Making the declaration allows HMRC to ensure that all licensing requirements, duty and VAT compliance is correct for where the goods are being sent.

In other instances, you might need to use a pro-forma invoice. This is when goods are being supplied free (such as a sample, gift or inter-company material) to the consignee. Make sure you are aware of all the forms that are required or use an international courier that will take care of these considerations.  

Restrictions and Licence Requirements

Always check that the goods you wish to send internationally are not banned or restricted to be imported into the destination country. Items like ammunition, weapons, chemicals and other dangerous goods often have some restrictions on them if they’re not outright banned. It’s always worth checking though, as some places have weird import restrictions, such as Singapore’s infamous ban on chewing gum. Then there are embargoes and sanctions placed on certain countries that could affect your international delivery plans.

Time Constraints

It’s important to factor in how long it will take for your deliveries to be made so you can offer a reliable service. There’s no point advertising next day delivery to a country where this would be borderline impossible or result in a large loss. Factoring in time differences is important for this reason too, especially when sending parcels to countries that are a few hours ahead. Avoid overpromising and if you want to offer day specific deliveries, it can be best to build up to this once you have a good sense of international parcel delivery first.

Contact Details

Write the name and address clearly, in capital letters, on every parcel to prevent any issues. Also add your UK return address and a contact number in case it does get lost in transit, so it can at least be sent back, and no assets lost. This can also help it get through customs in the destination country if there’s a problem too, as some countries won’t attempt deliveries if there isn’t a contact phone number attached. 

Safe Packaging

No matter where your international parcel delivery is going, it will likely have to make multiple stops and be transferred between different vans, aeroplanes or boats. This can involve a lot of knocks, so you need to pack everything as tight and securely as possible. Also think about where it is going and what the contents are. As deliveries to really hot or cold countries can affect certain products, so you may need to invest in special packaging. 

The Overall Price

For any business to successfully offer international parcel delivery, the costs involved need to fit in well with your business model and budget. It can be best to start out small, offering international parcel delivery to EU countries at first, before building up to further afield. Add up all the costs or consider using a courier or fulfilment firm to create one simple cost.

Making these considerations should help your business prepare to start sending its goods abroad and entering new markets overseas.  

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